Children are continually growing and developing, and an essential part of their health and well-being is making sure they see their doctor for well visits, or checkups, as recommended by CDPHP and the American Academy of Pediatrics. This means that children should visit their pediatrician or other primary health care provider at the following ages:
- 2 weeks
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months
- 15 months
- 18 months
- 24 months
- 30 months
- 3 years, and every year thereafter
Well visits are an opportunity for your child’s doctor to evaluate his or her overall growth and health and determine whether any developmental or social issues that require further examination are present. As well, your child might be screened for things like lead exposure or tuberculosis, and immunizations and vaccinations are typically administered when needed.
These visits are also an ideal time for you to speak with the doctor about any concerns you have about your child’s health or development. The physician will likely ask questions about your child’s eating, bathroom habits, sleep habits, and developmental milestones.
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your child’s well visit:
- Most doctors try to spend as much time as possible with each patient, but they do have busy schedules. Make a written list of any questions or concerns that you plan to raise with the doctor so you don’t forget anything that you want to discuss.
- Prepare your child. Especially for toddlers, doctor visits can be scary. Tell your child ahead of time that she or he is going to the doctor and what to expect. Don’t promise that it “won’t hurt” because if the child is receiving a vaccination, it might hurt, and you don’t want to lose your child’s trust. If you sense that your child is anxious, give him or her something to look forward to after the appointment. It can be small, like a sticker, a trip to the playground, or a special lunch. If your child feels less anxious and knows that you will be in the room during the exam, the experience will be easier for the doctor and for you.
- Know appropriate milestones. The doctor will surely ask questions about your child’s development, especially younger children. She or he might also ask questions that you may not have a ready answer for (like, can your 3-year-old copy a drawn circle?). If you do a little research ahead of time, you can “pre-test” your child to see if she or he falls short of the standard milestones so that you can discuss them in a knowledgeable way.
- Where possible, make the appointment at your child’s best time of day. If you can avoid taking your child for a checkup during his or her nap or meal times (or immediately beforehand), things will probably go smoothly. Taking an already cranky child to a medical appointment can lead to more stress than necessary.
- Remember that your pediatrician or primary care provider is your first resource. If you suspect that your child might have an issue that’s not specifically “medical” (e.g., emotional problems, developmental delays), your provider can refer you to therapists or other specialists, so don’t hesitate to ask if you have any concerns.
- Avoid distractions during the visit. Turn off your mobile phone while in the office and, if possible, leave other children with a babysitter or child care provider. Because your time in the office with the doctor is valuable, make the most of it by ensuring that you are giving your child’s health your undivided attention.
- Respect the provider’s office processes. Arrive on time for your child’s appointment and know what the office policies are with regard to cancellations and appointment changes.
- Take your child to the appointment. This may seem obvious, but in our busy lives, it can be too easy to pass along the responsibility of a well visit to a babysitter or grandparent. Even though your child seems healthy and you’re confident that the visit will be uneventful, it’s always a good idea for the parent to go to the well visit in person so that if an issue arises, you have the first line of communication in place.
At CDPHP, we recognize that preventive health is one of the most important things that you can do for your family’s wellness. Our Preventive Health Guidelines for Children is one resource that you can use to keep track of what your child needs at what age. Together, we’ll make sure that your children are getting the care they need to stay healthy.
References: National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services